When I started seeing this book on bookstagram, I immediately wanted to read it, and I’m so happy that it turned out to be exactly the sweet, heartwarming and gripping story I hoped for! Finn and Oliver stole my heart from the very start, and I stayed up all night to finish this book in one sitting!
Finn has had a really rough time, struggling with anger, grief and guilt after his mother dying in a car accident that he felt was his fault, and his father shutting him out. Even though he survived the accident, the boy he used to be didn’t.
Oliver has also had a horrible year, being betrayed and bullied by his former best friends after coming out as gay. So, when his mother decides to marry Finn’s father and asks Oliver to move across the country, he’s only happy for the fresh start and the opportunity to leave all the negativity and hate behind him.
Neither of them had expected how getting a new stepbrother would change the course of their lives forever…
This was such a beautiful, heart-wrenching love story that completely drew me in from the very first page. It was so full of tension, angst, passion and heart-break. Both of the main characters immediately stole my heart in their own separate ways and I read this whole book with a beating heart, desperately needing to know what would happen to Finn and Oliver.
(In case the family ties seem confusing, I want to make it really clear that there is nothing tabu about Finn and Oliver getting feelings for each other. They are not in any way related by blood and have not grown up together.)
Finn and Oliver’s emotional roller coaster when realizing their feelings for each other and the consequences all felt very real and realistic. The sexy parts were quite explicit, but still very sweet. They really showed how both boys felt vulnerable from not having any experience at all, or from being with another boy, but how they allowed themselves to open up and trust each other to explore new things in a safe and respectful way. I also really appreciated how Finn wasn’t ashamed of his feelings once he understood them and how he didn’t feel the need to put a label on them, but just accepting that it was “an Oliver thing”. I also enjoyed the different take from many other stepbrother romances in that even though Finn more or less was mad at the whole world, he immediately got protective of Oliver, so it wasn’t the usual enemies-to-lovers plot.
The toxic relationship between Finn and his father was also described in such a relatable and real way. Charli Meadows did an amazing job capturing the complicated father-son dynamics and how much damage parental neglect and blame can cause their children. The character development Finn’s father went through was amazing, but maybe a little bit too good to be true, but that’s just a minor detail.
All in all, Cali Boy was a truly adorable and emotional stepbrother grumpy/sunshine romance with all the feels and character growth. I read it in one sitting, it was so addictive and I rooted so much for all characters that I just couldn’t bear to put it down until the very end!
Thank you to the author Charli Meadows for trusting me with your beautiful work! All opinions are my own and I am leaving my honest review voluntarily.
4.5 heartfelt stars rounding up to 5
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